To the left, to the left: Why Neil Findlay should be leader of the Scottish Labour Party

In 2011 when Sarah Boyack and Jim Murphy undertook a review into the Scottish Labour Party, they recommended that the leader of the Scottish Labour Party group in the Scottish Parliament should be changed to the leader of the entire Scottish Labour Party. The cynical and the clever among you may have realised that three years on Boyack and Murphy are currently contesting the position that they created. Now, it doesn’t seem like so much of a coincidence that Murphy is standing to be leader of Scottish Labour, in fact, this has probably been mapped out for him since 2011 when he conducted the review. He tailored the position to suit him.

This is why he cannot and should not win. Murphy has a media machine behind him. They seem to forget that there are two other candidates in this leadership election and both of them are more deserving of the position than Murphy, particularly Findlay.

Neil Findlay started his working life as a brickie and for ten years he remained in this position before going to university to study Geography and Politics at Strathclyde. He became a teacher in 2003 and remained in this position for the next eight years until he was elected in 2011 as a list MSP in the Lothians. Findlay is an unashamed socialist. He has already won the backing of two major unions and has stood on a platform of fighting the SNP firmly from the left. I often wonder why this hadn’t crossed the mind of the Labour party before now. Findlay believes that councils should be free to set their own levels of taxation which he believes will reverse 40,000 job losses. Findlay also wants to build more council houses and roll back privatisation of the NHS. A cause close to his heart is that of blacklisting and also a call to launch an independent review┬áinto all cases of miners in Scotland being arrested.

Findlay has the backing of the unions, and in many cases of Labour leadership elections, this has swung the vote in a candidate’s favour. In 2010, Ed Miliband won the Labour Leadership election with the backing of the trade unions despite the popularity of his brother David Miliband. In the fourth round, Ed Miliband had 119, 405 votes from trade unions and affiliated socialist societies and David Miliband had 80, 266. In the 2011 Scottish Labour Leadership election, Johann Lamont won 21.81% of the trade unions and affiliated socialist societies vote but party members favoured Ken Macintosh.

Despite the changes to the way trade unions and affiliated organisations voted in Labour internal elections, these have not yet been implemented and the 2014 Scottish Labour Leadership Election will be conducted under the electoral college system. This means that the trade unions still wield a considerable amount of power in who becomes leader of the Labour Party.

What is clear, is that Scottish Labour are experiencing something of a political crisis at the moment, as old battles are finally coming to fruition. For many people, this is a fight between the left wing social democrats and the centrist pragmatists that have been dominating the party for two decades. It is clear that this has not worked for the Labour party as a whole, and a clear change of direction is needed.

Scottish politics appears to be moving to the left and that is where the Labour party needs to head too. A frequent contributor to left wing journals, books and newspapers, Neil Findlay is in and interesting position in the Labour party- one that has all too often been overlooked-and he is happy to call himself a socialist. A left leaning leadership candidate is what Labour needs to show the electorate that they are listening to their concerns that they are simply not left wing enough anymore. Findlay is an amiable chap, he doesn’t divide the party in the way that someone like Murphy has.

Findlay will have a task on his hands. If Lamont was unable to ward off London Labour, will Findlay meet the same fate? If Lamont felt she had to resign as leader because of a coup, will Findlay suffer the same fate? Recently, the Labour party has shown that it doesn’t take too kindly to those who dissent and go against the party line. Findlay is, to his core, a democrat, and is self aware of the situation that the Labour party is currently in. This is something that other candidates and members lack, the electorate is frequently assured that everything is okay, when it isn’t.

There is an almost painful dichotomy surrounding the fate of the Labour party at the moment. People are angry at them and rightfully so. In Scotland, there is this notion that the Labour Party is the party of the people. The people feel abandoned by the Labour Party because they have become a machine churning out politics graduates seeking careers as politicians, rather than a vehicle for change and for the social justice that we so desperately need in this country. This is why the reactions and emotion towards the Labour party is so hostile- it is because they do not have the people’s interests at their core.

As a bricklayer and latterly, a teacher, Findlay has the best interests of the people at heart. His idealism is much needed at a time when the party is in dire straits. We need someone with a vision for the future, who has ideas and an ideology with intelligent ideas, a politics firmly rooted in what he is for, rather than what he is against. Findlay is a fiercely intelligent man. We urge you, if you have a vote, to vote for Neil Findlay as leader of the Scottish Labour Party so that we can begin to return power to the people.


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